Friday, March 2, 2012

Seven years

It's hard to believe that seven years have passed.

I was in the backseat of a friend's car, driving back up to campus when I got the call.

Suicide was an abstract concept for me until then.

At first, we all thought she was missing. She was beautiful, bubbly, kind, trusting. The kind of person who would give up her first year of college to live and serve in an unknown town in Mexico. So it wasn't a stretch to think that, in a moment of characteristic warmth, she had let someone get too close to her.

From what I know of that day, she had, in some order: saw her fiance, taken a test at school, and driven away. Maybe she didn't actually take the test? I can't remember. Either way, she went missing. No one knew where she was, but we all had some strange confidence that she would be found. She was 20, beautiful, recently engaged.

They found her car near Shedd Aquarium.

They found her body in the lake.

I found out on a date with Zack. I found out right after dinner, and had to sit down on a pile of dog food bags outside of Petco in the Five Points shopping center in Santa Barbara. We had gone to dinner at Fresco, but I couldn't eat.

There was a big group of us in high school -- thirty, or so, at the outside, and about ten or twelve close friends at the core. Laurie moved between the outer and inner circles, but she was liked by everyone. We all knew her story, knew her family, we all got notes from her signed with a heart and a cross and a verse - 1 Peter 3:15; always be ready to give a reason for the faith you have.

And she was.

Until she wasn't.

I still find myself feeling surprised by it. Seven years after the day she killed herself, I wonder if it is real. If she didn't just go hide somewhere and start a new life. It doesn't compute. Behavioral psychologists talk about 'cognitive dissonance,' the tension people feel when they have to hold different beliefs simultaneously. Sometimes, I feel that way about Laurie. I believe that she is dead. I saw her water-bloated body at her wake, I watched my nineteen year-old male friends carry her casket down that aisle, I cried to my boyfriend about the injustice of it all. But then, I don't believe that she is dead. I don't feel it in my bones. It doesn't add up. Sweet, kind, happy Laurie. But she changed in so many ways after we all left for school. We lost touch except for the occasional email. We didn't know her anymore.

Since that year, every year on March 2nd I have gone for a long drive by myself, and I think about her. In Santa Barbara, I would drive up East Mountain Drive and then keep going until it was time to turn around. And I would listen, on repeat, to Jonathan Rice's "The Acrobat." It was the only time I would ever listen to that song because that was a sacred drive, a sacred moment.

One year, I drove to the end. As far as I could go until the mountain stopped me. And at the very end, at the end, in blue sidewalk chalk words was written:

"Welcome Home."

I haven't been back to the Aquarium since. I don't know if I can, because I don't know if I want to believe that she is gone. It's been seven years, and it feels like one, and it feels like one million.

If he should fall
He will surely die
And his body will sink and his soul will fly
Into the night where the spirits scream
He will leave this world and become a dream
He will leave this world and become a dream 

1 comment:

natalie said...

thank you for sharing this. I know I don't know you, but I knew Laurie from Student Impact in High School.